The Enchantments of Mammon: How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity,  Eugene McCarraher

Revisited through the lens of LJ Frank

Catching up on works sitting on my shelf while recovering from ailments associated with American politics, arrived plagues, and the pathologies of consciousness….my take:

There have been some fascinating historical studies that demonstrate the  integrated nature of religion and capitalism…the author’s ideas are not startling…. They are brilliant and forthright….  this work is a provocative rendering that is readable and accessible scholarship.

McCarraher who demonstrates his strong, pertinent academic credentials provokes the reader to dig deeper…… review the last few centuries and the evolving sacramental relationship between the material trappings of capitalism and and the spiritual offerings of religion, particularly, Christianity and why western culture is where it’s at in 2019.

His quotations are clear-headed, relevant, and poignant.

The brutal reality of how God and money are of the same cloth should be eye opening for a few people but perhaps is not.  Humanity may reach a morally distorted understanding of the relationship or doesn’t give a damn. It’s about money. What’s new?

The gospel of wealth is on display from the corporate, military industrial complex to the 45th President, and the billionaires of self-praise that takes us to a deeper journey within the human mind and action. The journey is disheartening, pragmatic, real, and comprehensive…the author took a portion of his life (ten years) in researching and writing this work.

Money is deified and capitalism takes on all the sacramental qualities of an (secular) orthodoxy…. the metaphoric communion cup of Christ’s blood is the sacrificial process of the dollar which is one and the same as the deity. Yet it’s too simplistic to call it the almighty dollar. It’s more profound on many different levels into very rituals daily performed.

Drink from this gospel of wealth and one can be saved. (But from what?)

Our material culture (production and consumption) is canonized. “Its moral and liturgical codes are contained in management theory and business journalism,” writes McCarraher. “Its iconography consists of advertising, marketing, public relations and product design.”

Is there hope? The author seems to think so and offers some suggestions. Still, the skeptic pauses and reflects on our rites of passage, the accumulation of wealth and the protestant work ethic. It’s all a lie perpetrated by the idea of wealth being a for of salvation.

There’s a religious ritual to making money and this scholarship reveals the character of greed, capitalism, and religious zeal on display and how the deity and the dollar are confused. And the theologies of humans take on new meaning.

Capitalism in it is present shadings and colorings takes on the cloak of respectable behavior by incorporating religious faith and ritual into a sacramental approach to the pursuit of daily life. How does one live without the belief in money? We all have to survive.

The more you pay for something the greater the value, both physically and spiritually, is the assumption. The product is only of value when consumed like the wine/ sacrificial blood in a communion cup (my words).

The reader comes away with the feeling that to go against capitalism and the gospel of wealth is to go against God. And Christian nationalism waits in the wings.

Money or lack thereof accelerates or inhibits action. The spiritual within the participant is exonerated when wealth is pursued.  The Garden of Eden becomes the garden of evil.

“Capitalism is best understood,” the author finalizes, “as a secular faith. It operates through myths and dogma, just as any religion does,” incorporating all the attendant rituals. 

The author offers strategies to restoring a healthy consciousness…. though inserted with brilliant insights I am wondering if there will be a revised edition from this study….. the USA is just one example leaning towards fascism and authoritarianism and the possible ending of voting and democracy. 

This book, whether one agrees with the author or not is a must read, and highly recommended.

*Postscript: the book may need an update to incorporate the current hypocrisies of Christian Nationalism/capitalism/politics. Why?  The Republican nominee who waves the Bible in his hands, is an adjudicated rapist, business fraud, insurrectionist and has been indicted on 91 criminal charges. He is supported by Christian Nationalists using similar arguments of an overlapping spiritual secular faith.